Studiocanal Looks To Up Ante on U.S., European TV Drama Production

Euro film-TV giant appoints Katrina Neylon first-ever TV drama sales head, unleashing Tandem’s Rola Bauer to focus on development, production

Studiocanal Looks Up Ante on U.S.,

Studiocanal, one of Europe’s largest film-TV production-distribution-sales forces, looks set to be driving more into the U.S. TV production business, following a major strategic realignment, splitting TV production and distribution, whose reverberations will play out over the whole company.

Move roles off Studiocanal’s forceful step-by-step entry into TV production from late 2012 – plus the large demand near worldwide for high-end English-language drama, and the emergence of digital TV platforms as potential new powerful buyers worldwide for top-notch TV fiction.

Studiocanal and German partner Tandem Productions aim “to increase our number of really international TV series productions, including dramas co-produced or co-financed out of the U.S. as Studiocanal extends the number of top-level partners it works with,” Studiocanal chairman-CEO Olivier Courson told Variety.

In one major move, former Shine International sales SVP Katrina Neylon, who has spent most of her career at Twentieth Century Fox Intl. TV and Disney ABC Intl. Television, has been tapped for the newly-created post of Studiocanal EVP sales and marketing, TV series, as Studiocanal creates its first-ever TV sales operation.

Tandem Productions (“Spotless,” “Crossing Lines,” “World Without End,” “Pillars of the Earth”), in which Studiocanal bought a 51% stake in January 2012, used to handle its own international sales. These will now be put through Studiocanal, freeing up Tandem prexy Rola Bauer to focus not only on Tandem’s productions but also the international co-development and co-production of properties with U.S. and European anchor partners, whether production companies, U.S. or European broadcast networks or pay TV/U.S. cable players, said Courson.

Under Studiocanal, Tandem has moved from high-profile and highly-successful mini-series into producing recurring one-hour dramas, first Euro crime series “Crossing Lines,” show-run by Ed Bernero (“Criminal Minds”) now in its third season, plus English-language crime drama “Spotless,” co-created for France’s feevee giant Canal Plus by Ed McCardie (the U.K. version of “Shameless”) and Corinne Marrinan (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”).

Last summer, Tandem and Lionsgate revealed first development partners – ABC, France’s TF1, Canada’s Bell Media, Germany’s ProSieben – on “Sex, Lies and Handwriting,” the earliest drama emerging from their joint production-distribution pact, struck August 2013. Tandem has also struck a first-look distribution deal with “Hunted” and “The X Files” scribe Frank Spotnitz’s Big Light Productions.

Released from distribution duties, Bauer can now focus all the more on development and production.

“We would like Tandem to produce even more and reinforce its development capacity on international TV series, not only physically producing but co-producing with a network of third parties, both European partners but potentially U.S. partners, such as Tandem’s first-look deal with Frank Spotnitz. Rola has a deep knowledge of the U.S. market,” Courson told Variety.

Canadian-born, Bauer started her career working for 15 years at Canada’s Alliance. Move means Studiocanal will probably have to “reinforce our resources on the TV series side” in the U.S, said Courson. Bauer added that, beyond announced titles, she is currently in development on “three different projects,” one with a U.S. broadcast network, two with nets based out of Europe.

Tying in key broadcast networks partners for co-development on dramas, Bauer will of course be involved in potential upstream distribution. All of Tandem’s productions have found a U.S. distribution home, she commented.

Courson said last spring that Studiocanal aimed to up-the-ante producing as many as seven high-end international TV series a year.

He added Monday: “There is an opportunity, a huge demand for quality high-end dramas from established and new players, such as digital platforms. Studiocanal has an interesting position, given its strong relationship with networks in Europe, the relationship we also have with key talent – producers, directors and writers – and our library, which could yield properties to develop into TV series.”

Taking up her new position May 18, Neylon will also handle sales on new shows from further Studiocanal producer partners: Manchester-based Red Production Company, whose best-know productions take in Channel 4’s “Queer As Folk,” “Scott & Bailey” for ITV and “BBC 1’s “Last Tango In Halifax.”; and Scandinavia’s SAM Productions ApS, a four-way joint venture with writers Adam Price (“Borgen”) and Sorein Svelstrup (“The Killing”) and producer Meta Louise Foldager (“Melacholia”). The former Tandem sales team will become part of the new Studiocanal TV distribution unit.

Neylon will report to Rodolphe Buet, Studiocanal’s new president, international marketing and distribution, brought back to Germany this February as Studiocanal integrates film, TV and library distribution, looking for synergies, becoming a one-stop international shop, which will be helpful when selling to global digital platforms, Courson said.

“As we are operating in many countries, we have the ability to use the local resources in these countries to achieve the best possible distribution of our products there and be very close to our partners,” he added.

Red Production Company is majority-owned by Studiocanal from December 2013; SAM Productions ApS launched in May 2014.